A view from the bottom: vulnerability as double exposure in the Kasungu Mountain Reserve, Malawi
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The future consequences of climate change are inevitable and will be disproportionately felt by the poor. This makes the need to understand vulnerability in developing nations an important area of research. This study explores the vulnerability of several villages within the Kasungu Mountain Reserve, Malawi. It builds on previous studies that have assessed how economic shifts interact with climactic variability to affect the development opportunities of poor. Adopting a political economic/ ecological lens, this study explores the conditions and factors that determine vulnerability within this local context; it establishes who the vulnerable groups are and explains why they are more vulnerable than others. The fieldwork phase was designed to make the process as inclusive as possible to perpetuate the self-organisation activities within the villages. To capture vulnerability, this study adopts a mixed method approach utilising quantitative, qualitative and participatory methods. It attempts to bridge the divide between quantitative and qualitative research within the vulnerability literature. Overall the mixed method approach was useful but produced trade-offs between the breadth and depth of its coverage. This study found that female headed households are poorer and more exposed to periodic stresses. These households have less time; mobility, lower education levels and are dictated by social norms that interact to prevent them from engaging in more rewarding income activities. This makes them more vulnerable to future hazards. The majority of households are poor and suffer from a lack of income diversity. These household are more exposed to periodic stresses that corrode assets and savings, while there is a lack of formal networks to provide support. Wealthier households have made a conservative diversification away from subsistence farming. This provides them with a solid platform to buffer periodic shocks. This does not guarantee them being less vulnerable to climate induced perturbations but offers more opportunities that can lead on to greater adaptation.